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Thursday, 3 November 1983
Page: 2358

Dr THEOPHANOUS(10.15) —I want to spend a few minutes refuting these absurd claims being made--

Opposition members interjecting-

Dr THEOPHANOUS —They have had their go. It is time to allow someone else to speak. We have had some pretensions here about people knowing something of political science. I happen to speak as a person who actually is a student of political science and has written in political science. Let me tell the House something about conventions and political science.

Mr Porter —Why don't you go back and get qualified?

Dr THEOPHANOUS —When the honourable member has achieved my qualifications, he will be able to say something. Let me first point out that the selective quotations of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr Peacock) are completely fallacious and completely untenable. The situation in the great Australian Labor Party, since its foundation--

Opposition members interjecting-

Dr THEOPHANOUS —Mr Speaker, am I going to get protection or not?

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member for Darling Downs and the honourable member for Barker will cease interjecting.

Dr THEOPHANOUS —We are talking here about the conventions which have applied in the Australian Labor Party in government since Federation. The conventions that have applied in the Australian Labor Party since Federation are that the Government's determinations are made ultimately by Caucus and the Labor Government is constituted by the Caucus. It is only when Caucus has made a determination that the members of the Party are bound to vote in the Parliament in relation to that particular policy. Let me add further something about the spurious claims by the Leader of the Opposition. He has said that the Minister for Immigration and Ethnic Affairs (Mr West) has contradicted the determinations of the Government. That is not what he has done in this particular case, as I understand it. What has happened is that the Minister has made a determination about his preparedness to vote in a particular way-the vote not in the Parliament but in the Caucus. That is what has happened and it has nothing to do with the conventions spuriously quoted by the Leader of the Opposition. He ought to be ashamed of himself for the way in which he has completely misled this Parliament in relation to that matter.

The other thing we are getting from the Opposition at present is a total failure, complete and utter failure, to understand the kind of serious, genuine debate that is taking place in this Party, the great Australian Labor Party, on one of the greatest issues facing this country. The point is that the Opposition has no contribution to make to this debate because it does not even begin to understand the issues in relation to this matter.

We are proud of our democratic traditions in Caucus and of the way in which we resolve and determine the policies facing this Party. These conventions and traditions were not established today or yesterday. They have been here, as I mentioned, since Federation. The fact is that there is no contradiction of convention in what has happened. The only question that needs to be asked, to be resolved within the Party, is the question of the role of the Cabinet and the role of Cabinet solidarity. There is no other question. There has certainly been no breach of the traditions of Westminster as has been spuriously claimed by the Leader of the Opposition. I am ready to see what academics and political scientists have to say today, tomorrow and next week in relation to these matters. I am ready to stand by their determinations including those of the people whom the Leader of the Opposition quoted. The fact of the matter is that his arguments have been spurious. There has been no breach of the understandings of Westminster. It is a rearrangement procedure within the Parliament.

Mr SPEAKER —Order! The honourable member's time has expired.